Mystery Hotel

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Shane Nickerson at Nickerblog has put up an interesting looking old photograph of a hotel lobby from the early twenties. Wil Wheaton then proposed that people should write short, 300 word stories inspired by the picture.

Here is mine. Originally it was posted when it was about 400 words, so I cheated. I've since gone back and edited it down to 299 words (in your FACE!). The original version is preserved below the edited version. I'd be interested on any comments about which one is better.

The Finest Specimen

The 10:15 train was early.

The station air was thick with dust, making the dull town even duller. Across the street my gaze settled on the dingiest hotel, the most likely to be within my means. While my profession provides personal satisfaction, and ultimately benefits mankind, it’s no means to riches.

Bags in hand, I crossed, and creaked open the door. Hesitating, I saw the lobby of a faded flophouse catering to traveling salesmen who make few sales; even by my standards it was difficult to imagine staying.

Then I saw him, standing beside the desk. Six feet tall, with long arms and legs, like an ape’s. Dark hair brushed back from a low, sloping forehead, bushy brows behind thick, round glasses. Entranced, I approached the counter, where an older man took three dollars and handed me a key. As I scribbled a name in the register, I couldn’t help sneaking glances at the tall man gazing at me with the barest spark of intelligence in his eyes. I was certain that I’d stumbled upon my next subject. I finished with the register, the tall man grunting and bending to take my bags. I snatched up my black bag, leaving him the others.

Following him upstairs, I noted his shambling gait and hunched shoulders. Left to his own devices, I theorized, his knuckles would drag the ground. Opening my bag, I withdrew a brown bottle, and as he entered my room, held my breath and soaked my handkerchief.

I came from behind, the cloth firm upon his face. A grunt, a slight struggle, and he slid to the ground.

As I arranged my instruments on the nightstand, I saw before me another piece in Darwin’s puzzle, ready to dissect and piece into my map of evolution, my life’s work


And now the unedited superlong version:

The Finest Specimen - Director's Cut
The 10:15 train was early.

The station air was thick with dust, making the dull town even duller. Across the street my gaze settled on the dingiest hotel, the most likely to be within my means. While my profession provides personal satisfaction, and ultimately benefits mankind, it’s no means to riches.

Bags in hand, I crossed, and creaked open the door. Hesitating, I saw the lobby of a faded flophouse catering to traveling salesmen who make few sales; even by my standards it was difficult to imagine staying.

Then I saw him, standing beside the desk. Six feet tall, with long arms and legs, like an ape’s. Dark hair brushed back from a low, sloping forehead, bushy brows behind thick, round glasses. Entranced, I approached the counter, where an older man took three dollars and handed me a key. As I scribbled a name in the register, I couldn’t help sneaking glances at the tall man gazing at me with the barest spark of intelligence in his eyes. I was certain that I’d stumbled upon my next subject. I finished with the register, the tall man grunting and bending to take my bags. I snatched up my black bag, leaving him the others.

Following him upstairs, I noted his shambling gait and hunched shoulders. Left to his own devices, I theorized, his knuckles would drag the ground. Opening my bag, I withdrew a brown bottle, and as he entered my room, held my breath and soaked my handkerchief.

I came from behind, placing the cloth firmly upon face. A grunt, a slight struggle, and he slid to the ground.

As I arranged my instruments on the nightstand, I saw before me another piece in Darwin’s puzzle to ready to dissect and piece into my map of evolution, my life’s work.

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299 words of my drivel.


Iowa was dusty, dirty and too hot. My traveling dress was stiff with sweat, dirt and the debris from a long journey. I had been wearing the thing for three whole days. My back hurt, my feet, encased in boots, too worn at the heel and too tight, hurt. I really just wanted to eat, bathe and sleep.
The dingy hotel beckoned me. I stepped into the lobby to be greeted by a tall man whose disapproving eyes took in my entire ensemble with one sweeping glance.
“I would like a room.”
“For one?” He sneered.
“No, my husband will be joining me directly.” I said, knowing it was a lie.
I signed the book, and wearily followed the man up the stairs.
I was hungry and bone weary. I needed to make this visit to this nameless, faceless town a short one. I would be traveling again, and soon.
The man opened my door, and asked me if there would be anything else.
I told him no, but I gave him my arched eyebrow glance, which told him, along with any other of his wretched sex that I used it on, exactly what “else” I needed.
He smiled. A greasy smile, and came into the room with me.
I was on him before the door had closed. My teeth bared. My hunger suddenly unbearable. His pathetic struggles spurred me on.
The look of terror on his face as he saw my sharp teeth, my open mouth. I loved that part.
I made no mess at all. A few dribbles on the front of my already filthy dress made no difference to it’s appearance. I devoured his entire body, leaving only his clothes, which I threw out of the window.
I lay down on the narrow bed, and slept.

Given the tone of the stories that have been written based on this photograph I have to say that I hope I never end up checking into a hotel, thinking the lobby vaguely is familiar, and not putting two and two together until it's too late.

What a cool idea! If my teachers had used this concept to teach English lessons at school, I'd probably have gotten more excited by composition. Well, I couldn't resist adding my 2c.
-- JN
*****
The love of my life has just walked in the door. Bags in hand, he is approaching the front counter, asking for a room. He is tall, skinny, dressed all in slightly worn black. He looks blank. Neglected almost. Pappa is asking him to sign the guest book. I’m trying to peek over his shoulder to read his name.


He keeps looking my way – low, slanting glances, checking me out – in the sly way that a girl will look at a man that she finds attractive; without letting him know she’s interested; only, she knows that he knows.


I am used to that look. I know what he sees as I stand by the hotel desk. A creature with long arms that reach the floor if I forget to straighten up. Dark hair and low, sloping forehead; thick, round glasses to hide my eyes. I wonder if he can tell, if he can smell my needy desperation.


I bend to take his bags, but he is grabbing the black case now – tugging till I let go. I lead the way to his room, and can hear his puffing breath as we walk up the stairs. He isn't in good shape. But I don't mind, I can be strong for him.


I enter his room. I want to climb into the sheets, to tell him that I am his. But I can’t… I can’t move… I…. “my love!”.

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This page contains a single entry by edgore published on April 4, 2006 8:33 AM.

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